Of the animals found in Iceland, 28 species are mammals. Before humans settled in Iceland in the 9th century, the Arctic fox was the only land mammal inhabiting the island. Today it is coexisting with wild and domestic mammals brought by humans. The Icelandic horse and sheep are perhaps the most well-known mammals of the island, and it is estimated that the population of Icelandic sheep is three times larger than that of humans!

Join us in getting to know some of the mammals that inhabit our Viking land.

Icelandic Sheep - Animals of Iceland - What they are and where to find them

Humpback Whales

The most distinctive feature of the humpback whale is its hump and its dorsal coloration, in black. They inhabit oceans and seas worldwide. Humpback whales feed in polar waters but migrate 30,000 kilometers to tropical or subtropical waters to reproduce.

They are found in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland and migrate to the Mediterranean to give birth. They are curious animals, so they often approach boats to observe people. These animals can jump and flip acrobatically, showing their bellies and hind flippers.

Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horse, which arrived in our beloved Viking island from Norway, is more sociable and curious than other horse breeds. Their character and appearance have made them very popular. The global demand for Icelandic horses is high, so they live more outside the country than in Iceland. Like the Icelandic sheepdog, the Icelandic horse is susceptible to diseases. As a result, other horse breeds have been banned on the island. Riding an Icelandic horse should be on the travel itinerary of every tourist who visits us. These animals can be used for caving, tourism, and snorkeling in Iceland, accompanying the adventurer to cross rivers and move through water.

European Rabbit

European rabbits were brought to Iceland as pets. Most of them were released in 2010, multiplying exponentially. So much so that they are now considered an invasive species.

You will see many rabbits in Reykjavik, where they wreak havoc on farms, gnaw tree roots, and nibble fences. Additionally, they concentrate on roads and cause traffic accidents. In 2014, the Reykjavik environmental department decided to completely eliminate rabbits from the area and impose strict regulations on those who have them as pets.

White-beaked Dolphin

The white-beaked dolphin is a dominant species of dolphins inhabiting Iceland. The male’s beak is completely white, while the female’s beak is only white at the tip. White-beaked dolphins gather in social groups of the same age and, in some cases, of the same sex. It is estimated that around 30,000 white-beaked dolphins inhabit the coast of Iceland. Their main food source is gadoid fish, which include whiting, cod, and haddock.

Gray Seal – Animals of Iceland

The harbor seal and the gray seal are the two native seal species of Iceland. The gray seal is larger than the harbor seal, reaching 2 meters and weighing around 200 kilograms. Gray seals can be distinguished from harbor seals by their fewer body spots, thick shoulders, and large, pointed head. They inhabit the west, south, and northwest coasts of Iceland. You will find many of them around the Myrar area, Breidafiord Bay, the Strandir area, and the Skagi Peninsula. Gray seals feed on benthic or demersal fish species and dive up to 105 meters to hunt.

Gray Seal - Animals of Iceland - What they are and where to find them


The puffin is a species of small bird. During the mating season in spring, puffins stand out for their colorful beaks. In winter, these beaks turn gray. The plumage of this bird is predominantly white and black, and its beak is large, resembling that of a parrot. Their primary diet consists of small fish, but they also feed on zooplankton. Puffins dive up to 60 meters below the water’s surface to hunt.


The narwhal belongs to the Monodontidae family along with the beluga whale. Male narwhals have an elongated canine tooth that resembles a tusk. They are usually found in groups of 5-10. Their main diet consists of Arctic cod, squids, shrimps, and Greenland halibut. This species is threatened by humans, polar bears, sharks, and killer whales. Only 75,000 specimens remain. Narwhals are said to suffocate if trapped in ice blocks. To prevent this, they dive to 800 meters during the winter to avoid predators and cold temperatures.

Icelandic Sheep – Road Companions

Icelandic sheep were brought to Iceland from Norway by the first settlers. There are approximately 800,000 sheep in Iceland, which is double the number of people inhabiting the island. Their wool is used to make crafts, such as the popular Icelandic sweater ‘lopapeysa,’ while the animal’s meat is common in many Icelandic typical dishes, including the world-famous lamb soup. According to researchers, the meat is delicious because sheep are allowed to roam freely in the fields.

Tufted Duck

Tufted Ducks, of European origin, are probably the most common ducks in Iceland. However, they did not arrive in the country until the late 19th century. The male is easily recognizable by its black/white purplish appearance, the tuft on the head, and a small white patch around the bill. The female is usually entirely brown with small tufts that are rarely seen.

Tufted Ducks are diving ducks that dive deeper compared to wild ducks. To swim, they take off from the surface. This species breeds throughout Iceland near vegetation-rich waters and, during winter, take refuge in unfrozen lakes.

Tufted Duck - Animals of Iceland - What They Are and Where to Find Them

Rock Ptarmigan

The rock ptarmigan is a common bird in Iceland, an important food source for predators such as the gyrfalcon and the snowy owl. In some regions, they are used for hunting. Where they are not hunted, such as on Hrisey Island near Akureyri or in natural parks like Skaftafell, they are tame and sociable. During winter, all are white, except for a blackish hue on the tail and eye. During summer, they acquire shades of gray and reddish. The rock ptarmigan is a domesticated bird visible in all vegetated areas, such as shrublands. This bird feeds on berries, shoots, germinated seeds, and insects.

Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic sheepdogs also arrived in Iceland accompanying the first settlers. They are smaller than other common dogs. This breed was on the brink of extinction in the 19th century. To protect those that remained, other dog breeds that entered the country were banned, and through vaccinations, they managed to save them. Icelandic sheepdogs have fluffy coats and curly tails. They are strong, agile, energetic, and friendly. Most of these dogs are found in the countryside, where they protect herds.


Reindeer have become synonymous with Christmas, particularly with Santa Claus. This species arrived on the island in the late 18th century from Norway. Despite their docile appearance, they have always been considered a wild species. Initially, they roamed the country in large herds, but in the early 20th century, reindeer became extinct in the north and southwest of Iceland. Only a few specimens survived in the east and northeast of the country. Researchers associate this loss with poor grazing conditions, probably caused by volcanic eruptions and a wave of severe winters.

Currently, Iceland has approximately three thousand reindeer. They are best seen from Vopnafiordur on the north coast or near the Glacier Lagoon in the south of the island. Their main habitats are near Mount Snaefell, next to the Vatnaiokull glacier. To protect themselves from the harsh winter, reindeer have two layers of fur. Additionally, they have turbinate nasal bones that help conserve warm air and sharpen their sense of smell.

Arctic Fox

The Arctic fox is known as the only land mammal that existed in Iceland before human settlement. They walked on ice to the island but became stranded when the ice melted over 10,000 years ago. They are found in various places on the island but are concentrated in the Westfjords, particularly in the Hornstrandir Reserve, where they are protected.

There is an Arctic Fox Center in Sudavik since 2007 dedicated to protecting and studying them. In Iceland, Arctic foxes are white and blue.

White Arctic Fox - Animals of Iceland - What They Are and Where to Find Them

Animals of Iceland – What They Are and Where to Find Them

Have you ever wondered what kind of animals you can see in Iceland? Believe it or not, only a few wild species in Iceland are native. Most were brought to the island by the first settlers. Travelers love to visit Iceland for its natural wonders, such as the Northern Lights, while Icelandic fauna is often relegated to a plan B. We recommend including some of them in your trip; they will make your visit an unforgettable journey.